Police in a Seattle suburb say they are seeking a white gunman after an Indian Sikh man reported he was shot in the arm and told to “go back to your own country.”
India’s foreign minister said on Twitter early Sunday that the victim is identified as Deep Rai and that he told police he was working in his driveway on Friday when the unidentified man approached him.
“I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a U.S. national of Indian origin,” Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said. He added that he had spoken with the father of the victim.
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Rai told police in the Seattle suburb of Kent that the shooter is a 6-foot-tall, white man with a stocky build, according to The Seattle Times. He said the man was wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face.
South Asians have been on edge after the deadly shooting at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe that the FBI is investigating as a hate crime. Authorities said witnesses to the shooting, which left an Indian man dead and another wounded, reported the suspect yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire.
In suburban Seattle, Rai told police the suspect said he should go back to his homeland and the two got into an argument, according to The Seattle Times. The paper said the victim told police the man then shot him in the arm.
Sikhs have previously been the target of attacks in the U.S. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the backlash that hit Muslims around the country expanded to include those of the Sikh faith, the men often identified by a turban and a long beard.
Male observant Sikhs often cover their heads with turbans, which are considered sacred, and refrain from shaving their beards. The faith comes from South Asia’s Punjab region.
In 2012, a man shot and killed six Sikh worshippers and wounded four others at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee before killing himself.
Police told the newspaper that the agency has contacted the FBI and other law enforcement agencies about the case.
“We’re early on in our investigation,” Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said Saturday. “We are treating this as a very serious incident.”
Jasmit Singh, a leader of the Sikh community in the nearby suburb of Renton, said he had been told Rai was released from the hospital, the Times reported.
“He is just very shaken up, both him and his family,” Singh told the newspaper. “We’re all kind of at a loss in terms of what’s going on right now, this is just bringing it home. The climate of hate that has been created doesn’t distinguish between anyone.”